Gay hiking

BIG GAY HIKE one of the highlights of Winter Pride

The free event welcomes people of all ages in a 3.5 km loop around the Starkey Hill Conservation Area

Strap on some sturdy boots and get outdoors with an upcoming event hosted by Nature In Transition for Winter Pride.

Winter Pride’s BIG GAY HIKE with Nature In Transition is organized in partnership with ARCH Guelph for Winter Pride, a festival organized by Guelph Pride. This free event welcomes people of all ages on a 3.5 km loop around the Starkey Hill Conservation Area.

Jasper Smith, education coordinator with ARCH Guelph and organizer of Nature In Transition, said the idea for this hike was to get people out and moving.

“I chose to do a hike, especially a longer and more difficult hike for this one, because a lot of people didn’t go out, we haven’t had more of these rigorous activities in a while, Smith said of the event.

On February 12, Smith and trained peer helpers will take two groups of eight participants to Starkey Hill Conservation Area. One group will leave at 1 p.m. and another at 2 p.m. The hiking theme is CCommunity and connection: fighting isolation and how staying connected to others and to the earth can help ground us and stay healthy. Winter Pride will run from February 4 to February 13.

“We ask people to dress appropriately, if you have ice cleats we encourage you to bring them, I will also have extra hiking poles and things like that if people like the extra stability” , they said. “We’re also asking people to stay masked for the hike just to encourage safety and less germ sharing this way.”

This hike is the first event organized by Nature in transition since the beginning of the pandemic. After posting information about the hike, Smith said there was already a waiting list. Those interested in joining the waitlist can do so at eventbrite.ca.

“It seems like the rate at which it’s sold out, the need is there,” Smith said. “We’ve had people tell us about these programs in the community…we’re thrilled to offer this one.

“If things don’t get worse and the outlook looks good as the date approaches, we hope to open that waitlist and add people to each of the groups.”

Beginning as a side project by Smith at ARCH Guelph, Nature In Transition aims to provide the opportunity to develop emotional well-being, positive well-being, confidence and connection to self, community and the earth. through various hikes and outdoor experiences.

Smith explains that they coordinate a variety of peer support programs, where transgender and non-binary peer workers are hired, trained in community-level counseling skills, and then paid to support others in the area through a variety of programs. workshops, training opportunities and a weekly reception.

“A lot of these people can’t access traditional psychotherapy because it’s too expensive, inaccessible, or they do it and have negative experiences,” Smith said. “We wanted to provide them with something that is assertive and this is kind of a way of meeting that need and grounding the work where we are, in terms of our natural environment, as well as our community, our collective experiences and that sort of thing.”

In the past, Nature In Transition has hosted events like Earth Day cleanups, Game Day in a park, and hikes on public transit accessible hiking trails. This spring, Smith said the Nature in Transition program will be able to expand on what ARCH already offers, offering more social support and peer counseling events and programs that bring 2SLGBTQIA+ people into the field to foster new types of healing in the community.

“I’ve worked with a few different collaborators and we’re hoping to offer multi-week sessions based on group counseling, so it will be land-based counseling and group hikes,” Smith said, adding that they were delighted with the opportunity. “It will look a little more different, but it will be more structured and a little more space in my schedule to commit to these projects each week.”